Principles of NeuroArchitecture and NeuroUrbanism

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

By Andréa de Paiva 

1 – NeuroArchitecture, as well as NeuroUrbanism, is defined as the application of neuroscience in constructed spaces, aiming to better comprehend the impact of architecture on the human brain and behavior.

2 – NeuroArchitecture has an interdisciplinary character and, by incorporating elements of applied neuroscience, establishes rich interfaces with other fields of knowledge that, originally, didn’t have a broad connection with traditional architecture and urbanism. Therefore, NeuroArchitecture amplifies the field of research about the relation between constructed environments and their users, improving the comprehension of various messages that the environment transmits, including those on less conscious levels of perception.

3 - NeuroArchitecture can be studied in different levels, from the molecular and the celular to the level of systems and behaviors, always seeking to understand how the physical environment impacts individuals, for instance through the liberation of chemical substances such as hormones or neurotransmitters, gene expression, brain plasticity or the alteration of mental states, emotions and behaviors. Some of the most studied areas inside NeuroArchitecture are: wayfinding and memory, illumination, perception and biophilia.

4 – The application of neuroscience in architecture or any other area must be done with caution. The brain and its mechanisms are extremely complex and the frontiers of knowledge in that field are in constant advance. If he doesn’t keep himself constantly up-to-date, using reliable sources of information, the NeuroArchitect might be led to questionable conclusions.

NeuroArchitecture Principles

5 – NeuroArchitecture assumes that the environment has a direct influence on the most primitive patterns of brain functioning, which escape from conscious perception. The application of NeuroArchitecture consists in trying to create environments that can stimulate or inhibit some of these determined patterns, depending on the purpose of the space in question. In that sense, architects that make use of applied neuroscience can design with the explicit purpose of affecting human behaviors, even those that are beyond conscious perception and control.

6 – It is fundamental to take ethic principles into consideration when designing with applied neuroscience, for constructed environments can influence their users without them realizing it. These ethical elements are of great relevance in all areas of applied neuroscience.

7 – From a practical standpoint, NeuroArchitecture can and should be used to make human action more effective and, above all, to create healthier spaces on the short and long-term. Thus, the greater principle of NeuroArchitecture should be ‘efficiency with quality of life and personal well-being’. All through the conception and the strategic use of space.

8 – Neuroscience reveals various patters of brain functioning, but people are still unique on account of the influence of genetics, culture and individual experiences. Because of that, comprehending the target public who will make use of the designed environments is fundamental for the success of the application of NeuroArchitecture.

9 – NeuroArchitecture should not be applied in similar ways in different types of environments. Each environment has its own function and should have characteristics which stimulate specific behaviors, such as creativity, focus, learning and memorization, socialization, relaxation, respect and so on.

10 – NeuroArchitecture does not consist on the creation of specific rules which should be followed by architects when they design. It consists of a set of concepts involving different brain properties that can be impacted by certain characteristics of the environment. It’s up to the architects and urban designers to choose what, when and how to apply them.

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© 2018 by Andréa de Paiva